Last night Alex and I talked about our plans here in Mestia. They are as follows: Alex will do two or three single-day hikes and I will attempt a two or three-day hike from Mestia to Etseri via Mazeri. Then we both want to hike to Ushguli, which may take three to four days.
The first sections of the walks chosen for today matched and we left around 10am to hike up to ‘the cross’, just to the north of Mestia. From there we turned northeast along the Lamaaja ridge. At some point I turned west and followed a hollow while Alex continued on the ridge. The walk was easy and well-marked until I came to a gully and the confluence of two streams. It was still covered in snow and it looked like landslides had possibly destroyed the guideposts/markers. I could see the Guli Pass (2960m) which I had to cross in front of me, but the walls of the gully were quite steep and I didn’t see an obvious way out other than climbing up between the streams (partly over the snow fields, partly up and along the walls), which also seemed to be the suggested route based on the markers I found. Sometimes the underground was so muddy and loose that I had to make really quick steps to have my feet moved away before everything gave way under me. I felt a bit like in a cartoon where the protagonist tries to avoid the inevitable fall by trying to run in the air.
So I climbed and climbed and didn’t find any more way marks. I realized that by now I was seriously going in the wrong direction, so I decided to try and reach the ridge above and to the west of me, hoping that it would have a maneuverable connection to the pass.
With every few meters I ascended and moved closer towards the pass it became more and more difficult to go on. Around 6pm, at an altitude of approx. 2850m, clounds and dust started to drift fast across the ridge I wanted to reach. There was no way I could continue if visibility got any worse. Luckily I was just at a place that would allow for pitching my tent, and the options for moving on were slim. The available space was tiny, just enough for my 1-person tent, and high above the valley that I apparently was supposed to climb up in. Thunder started rolling above me and it started to rain. Put up the tent and moved in.
Temperatures dropped considerably and the rain turned into hail and later snow. Heard something that sounded like footsteps passing by – but that was pretty much impossible up here, wasn’t it? I peeked out of the tent – and visibility was NIL. The entire valley below and all the peaks around me were covered in fog/cloud.